Space Debris Cleanup Suggestions Ignored

Space debris cleanup suggestions by fiction writers have been made repeatedly; all have been ignored by the world's space agencies. Now, we have a real problem.

This past week, ISS astronauts have ducked into a Russian space capsule for protection from space debris:

The three astronauts, two Americans and one Russian, moved into the station's attached Soyuz TMA-13 spacecraft at 12:35 p.m. EDT (1635 GMT) as a safety precaution in case the debris - a small piece of a spent satellite motor - slammed into the orbiting lab and ripped a hole in its outer hull. The astronauts were ready to evacuate the space station if the debris hit the station and depressurized its living space.

This follows the incident last month in which a Russian cosmos 2251 satellite improbably collided with an Iridium 33 satellite, creating enormous debris clouds:

According to an e-mail alert issued by NASA today, Russia's Cosmos 2251 satellite slammed into the Iridium craft at 11:55 a.m. EST (0455 GMT) over Siberia at an altitude of 490 miles (790 km). The incident was observed by the U.S. Defense Department's Space Surveillance Network, which later was tracking two large clouds of debris.

"This is the first time we've ever had two intact spacecraft accidentally run into each other," said Nicholas Johnson, chief scientist of NASA's Orbital Debris Program Office at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. "It was a bad day for both of them."


(Animation of satellite collision debris clouds)

Satellite debris has been a problem for many years. Of course, you'd think NASA and all the other space agencies would be ready with a solution.

Wrong.

Science fiction writers of all sorts, on the other hand, have been sounding the warning for generations, and weaving the solutions into popular culture.

For example, take a look at the 1977 television series Quark. This comedy, created by legendary writer Buck Henry, described the activities of the United Galaxies Sanitation Patrol Cruiser, an interstellar garbage scow.


(Richard Benjamin and the Barnstable twins)

Richard Benjamin played Adam Quark, who worked to clean up trash in space. He is ably assisted by the Bettys, played by the Doublemint twins (Cyb and Patricia Barnstable).

In his 1978 novel The Fountains of Paradise, Arthur C. Clarke uses Operation Cleanup to make sure that low earth orbit is clear of debris for the newly constructed space elevator.

Fortunately, the old orbital forts were superbly equipped for this task. Their radars - designed to locate oncoming missles at extreme ranges with no advance warning - could easily pinpoint the debris of the early Space Age. Then their lasers vaporized the smaller satellites, while the larger ones were nudged into higher and harmless orbits.

Fans may also recall Planetes, an anime series published by Makoto Yakimura in Japan starting in 1999. The series follows a team of debris cleaners who clear space junk from flight paths.


Planetes cover art

Sources: Station Astronauts Take Shelter from Space Debris and U.S. Satellite Destroyed in Space Collision; thanks to Moira for the tip and a reference.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 3/19/2009)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 3 )

Related News Stories - (" Space Tech ")

Bigrating Laser Beam-Riding Light Sail Is Self-Correcting
'That sail will be twenty thousand miles at the wide part.' - Cordwainer Smith, 1960.

ISS Astronauts Test Estee Lauder 'Advanced Night Repair' Skin Serum
'Out in the New Moon, just ask for what you want...' - Jack Williamson, 1939.

Gather Ye Moonrocks While Ye May
'The law of filing on newly discovered asteroids was definite.' - Nat Schachner, 1941.

An Ocean On Ceres
'We sailed gently forward, hull down to the asteroid's surface... A little sea was now beneath us.' - Ray Cummings, 1931.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Salto Jumping Robot Now Sticks Landing!
'Lucky touched the leap knob and the hopper's leg retracted.'

Gyroscopic Median-Straddling Mass Transit Vehicles
'It was among these leviathans that the little gyrocar was daring to thrust its puny self...'

Bigrating Laser Beam-Riding Light Sail Is Self-Correcting
'That sail will be twenty thousand miles at the wide part.'

ISS Astronauts Test Estee Lauder 'Advanced Night Repair' Skin Serum
'Out in the New Moon, just ask for what you want...'

LG Wing Twisting Smartphone Might Be Fun
'A polycarbon screen unfurled...'

Mushroom Coffin Returns You To Nature, Naturally
'She touched the leaf. She was wanted.'

Will ATT Offer Ad-Subsidized Cellphone Service
'For long-distance calls the ratio of commercial to conversation was as high as 10 to 1...'

Gyro-X Self-Balancing Two-Wheeler Car
'Indeed, the gyrocar was a sight to make a man look twice.'

Beat Covid-19 With AIR By MicroClimate - At Last I Get My PAPR
More than just a bubble.

Mi TV LUX Transparent Edition OLED TV
The Look of Things To Come.

Metalenses Now Reconfigurable With Liquid Crystal
'Hufhuf oil held in static tension...'

'Alexa For Residential' A Landlord's Dream (Tenant's Nightmare?)
'...unseen mechanical entities... that are in our very midst. One of them following each of us.'

Gather Ye Moonrocks While Ye May
'The law of filing on newly discovered asteroids was definite.'

InMotion V11 Electric Unicycle Gets Air (Video)
'A tumblebug does not give a man dignity...'

Rid Thyself Of Ads On The Newsbox
'Can't we scramble that commercial?'

A.I. Jesus Proclaims Machine Gospel
'... he crossed the waiting room to the Padre booth; inside he put a dime into the slot and dialed at random.'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.